California bill assures garment workers an hourly wage

Caroline Champlin Oct 1, 2021
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Some garment workers in Los Angeles were making as little as $2 an hour. Getty Images

California bill assures garment workers an hourly wage

Caroline Champlin Oct 1, 2021
Heard on:
Some garment workers in Los Angeles were making as little as $2 an hour. Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

California finalized a new law this week that gives workers in the garment industry an hourly wage. Until now, workers were typically paid per piece – for every seam or part of clothing they finish. That typically added up to around $6 an hour, sometimes less. Now,they’ll be making more than double that.

Los Angeles is the hub of the domestic garment industry, according to UCLA professor Victor Narro.

“You go to downtown L.A., some of these old buildings … you go into these old buildings, you find 20 to 30 to 40 workers,” he said.

Those workers are employed by a contractor, who has a deal with a brand. Narro’s research found some workers in L.A. making as little as $2 an hour. 

Ilse Metchek, head of the California Fashion Association, opposed the legislation because it makes brands liable for any wage violations their contractors commit.

Metchek said production may head out of state, or even the country.

“In other words, the companies are not going to move – but don’t make it in California, make it in Arizona, make it in Nevada, make it in Mexico,” she said.

That could be their loss, Narro said.

“I challenge them to go somewhere else and get the same kind of production, the same kind of quality production that they get in Los Angeles,” he said, adding that it won’t be easy to replace the estimated workforce of 45,000 based in L.A.

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